The recently released Japanese “Red List of Marine Creatures” has been criticized by some experts for the lack of protection it provides for whales and dolphins.
The Japanese Fisheries Agency and Ministry of the Environment compile the list, which is Japan’s own version of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List – the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of different species.
However, the Japanese version does not follow the same criteria as the IUCN’s and several groups within Japan are questioning its validity. Unsurprisingly for a nation that still hunts and kills whales, the Japanese Red List categorises all whale species are ‘Not Endangered’ and so, in parts, directly contradicts both the Mammal Society of Japan and the IUCN.
The Japanese government claim to have used the guidelines set out by the IUCN but that they ‘apply the criteria in different ways’.
For example, the narrow-ridged finless porpoise is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ by IUCN and various populations around Japan are listed as ‘Near Threatened’, ‘Endangered’ and even ‘Critically Endangered’ by the Mammal Society of Japan. But, oddly, Japan’s new Red List states that this species are of ‘Least Concern’. The harbour porpoise was also listed as being of ‘Least Concern’ despite again being listed by Mammal Society of Japan as Near Threatened.
Some of the larger whales that are known to spend only some of their time in Japanese waters (migratory species) were not even considered.